The client, St Wilfrid’s Church Committee, selected us, along with Lathams Architects, to help them with their vision of converting the 12th Century Church into a more usable space for the local community. The aim was to remove the pews and open up the interior space so that it can be used in a similar way to a traditional village hall by youth clubs, singers, etc.

St Wilfrids ChurchAfter some initial consultations the design team got a feel for the requirements and pinned down some key requirements including specific areas to be lit up, main usage of each area and where flexibility was required.

Key to the success of this project is how the space is to be heated. As with most churches it isn’t used daily but when in use it needs to heat up quickly, which is difficult given the large volume of air to be heated. An option study was completed to review the use of gas or electric as the main energy source and given the high cost of brining in a larger gas supply electric heating was found to be the most economical. Working with the architect it was decided that underfloor heating would be best because the floor is already raised with a wooden covering that can be reused.

Having completed the initial outline design we looked in more detail at the services and how they would make the building be as useable as possible, as requested by the client. Lighting in the existing church was poor and a constant problem to the users so we worked with specialist suppliers to create a unique lighting design that meets all the required lighting levels as well as highlighting key features around the church. The design included external footpath lighting and emergency exit provisions.

Water and drainage had been a particular problem for the Church so we worked with the project civil engineer to identify two new drainage points that ran close to the existing external pathways, which were the only areas that we were allowed to dig in the graveyard.

One of the aims of the Church Committee was to have screen and speakers which will enable films to be shown and bands/ singers to perform so we worked with two specialists to specify bespoke dropdown screens and speakers that were capable of dealing with the low-level voices used at funerals to brass bands performing at full volume. The audio-visual experience was also to be extended to include a interactive visitor experience that gave visitors a tour of the key features of the Church using headphones and iPads.

The overall project had to meet all the normal building regulations as well as the guidance provided by Heritage England and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The final design was completed for the St Wilfrid’s Church Committee within the timescale requested, and the project lead was able to use the document to go the Heritage Lottery Fund Board to confirm that the project was viable and going to be an asset for the local community.

St Wilfrids Church                               St Wilfrids Church